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Hey Recent Graduates: You're Nothing Special and That's OK

In honor of graduations that just took place around the country, I thought I would take a moment to speak to the next generation. Many of you have just graduated from college (and high school) and are looking to make your way in the world armed with a piece of paper and a dream. But that is nothing that your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins have not done before you.

Last year a teacher named David McCullough gave a commencement speech at Wellesley High School that everyone should watch and take notes about. He succinctly states the obvious that many parents, teachers and relatives have been trying to teach all of you. In his address he stated:

"Yes, you've been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped," McCullough said in his speech. “Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You've been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You've been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie ... But do not get the idea you're anything special. Because you're not."

So what does that say about you? You are one of the almost 7 billion people on the planet. You are one of millions that are thinking just like you are. You may even be one of millions who have the exact same dream or goal. The point is that you are not unique. You are not special. You are not even original.

 

So what does it all mean, you ask? How can I now justify my existence now that my days as a student are over (or at least the first part is done)? It is very simple. Temper your expectations to be realistic. Look outside the box not just inside of it. Many of you may not realize it having come from the environment where you were taught you were special, but your parents had to do the same thing you did and they might not have had the same advantages they tried to give you. Yet in many articles I read, I rarely, if ever, hear of graduates actually thanking their parents. The articles are about their problems and their dreams without any regards to what may have been done for them to get them there. This is not to say that some of you did not do it all by yourself. Some of you did. I salute you if that's the case. But for many its not.

Your parents set up savings accounts, took out second (or third mortgages), sold jewelry, paid money out of their own savings, alloted money from their salaries and many other creative means of helping you finance your dreams. They took these hardships willingly in the hope that you will be better than they were, have a better chance at a brighter future than they did. But in order to do so you have to temper your expectations to be realistic.

Here are some points for you to consider as you move into the world:

1. The world owes you nothing because you went to college.
2. A degree does not mean you are ready for anything more than entry level.
3. You are now competing with millions of other people. Nothing is assured.
4. If you expect everyone to bow down at the alter of you, you will be very disappointed.
5. You will have to work for what you want.
6. Do not expect employers to build their schedules around you as your parents did. You will have to bend.
7. Do not expect you will be "in" on everything from day one. You have to earn trust and respect.
8. Look around and see what should be done next not just wait for someone to tell you.
9. Understand that you may be expected to things without an explanation. This is part of being flexible. Do not insist on always knowing everything. Sometimes it may be a test to see if you have patience in grooming you for something better.
10. Do not expect to make an impact on day one. Your input will be more valued when tempered with experience.

As a father of five with a recently graduated senior, I understand all of you want to rush out and make your voices heard. You guys have some great traits ... but you also have some bad ones. Technically and socially you are like no generation before you. You can multi-task like most people breathe and you take advantage of the flexibility of email and the Internet like no others. But in the same breath it has made you impatient. It has made you self-assured but also arrogant to some degree. You do not handle being told your wrong very well. Plus you do not handle criticism well and will argue when you should listen.

That is not to say you will not make an impact at some point. The later Gen X folks like me are just now moving into our 40s. We aren't quite ready for the graveyard yet. You are going to be working for us and learning from us more so than boomers. We are the mid-upper to middle managers and executives you will be reporting too. Our work ethics are different. My generation was the first to embrace technology (remember WE invented Pac-Man and Space Invaders LOL!!!) but we stagnated as well. It is time for you all to pick up the banner. Learn from us and take the lessons we have to teach as additions to your own knowledge.

You will be better for it. Good luck and good hunting!!!

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